How to eat your favorite foods and still be fit

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” – Charles M. Schulz

Farfalle (bowtie) pasta cooked al dente, topped with pesto, sitting next to a perfectly broiled salmon filet is one of my favorite meals to cook, hands down. It’s insanely easy to make, delicious, reminds me of home, and fits perfectly into my diet.

How do I know it fits into my diet? Because as long as I know how to estimate portion sizes of foods, macronutrients (grams of protein, carbs, and fat), and how many macros I need to eat, I can fit almost any meal into my diet. Today, i’ll show you how to do all of these things with the system I use to eat whatever I want and still reach my fitness goals.

Some people refer to this as “flexible dieting”, where as long as you eat within the recommend windows for your macronutrients (macros), you will see results. I find this to be the easiest way to get my friends started on being more conscious of what they eat and flexible enough for them to stick with for more than a few weeks.

Don’t believe this kind of dieting could produce results? Then read about how Mark Haub ate nothing but Twinkies, Doritos, and other junk food but still lost 27 pounds in 2 months (CNN). Or how John Cisna lost 37 pounds in 3 months eating nothing but meals from McDonalds (HuffingtonPost). Their program focused on counting total number of calories, regardless of macronutrients. I recommend taking a slightly more refined approach, where we eat high quality foods and tailor our macronutrients to maximize our results.

Here is the process I follow when giving someone advice:

  1. Calculate your needs to get a rough idea of how much protein, carbs, and fat your body needs every day using this calculator.
  2. Build a list of your favorite meals along with their corresponding macros using CalorieKing (unless your food has nutrition labels, use those). Bookmark this site, you’ll be coming back often.
  3. Plan a sample day by mixing and matching meals until your macros for the day are met.
  4. Collect feedback throughout the week by tracking your progress to make sure you’re on target.

As an exercise, let’s walk through this process using my data and the super delicious salmon with pesto and pasta meal I mentioned earlier. I’ll share a Google Spreadsheet template at the end of the article for you to use at home. [Read more…]